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Princeton Personality by Jean Stratton


PLACE TO BE: “One of the things I like about Princeton is that it’s a place where, if you are really passionate about something, you can help to make it happen.” Long-time Princeton resident Arthur Morgan is shown in his downtown office.

Intriguing Reflections of Princeton History Recalled by Long-time Resident Arthur Morgan

You could call Arthur Morgan a home-town boy. Although widely traveled and a resident of Latin America for eight and a half years, he has lived nearly his entire life in Princeton.

Born in New York City, he was a week old in 1924 when his parents returned to their Princeton home. With the exception of those years abroad and three and a half years stationed at various Army Air Corps bases during World War II, he has continued to call Princeton home.

Change is the biggest constant, it is said, and Mr. Morgan has certainly seen his share of that in Princeton.

“I like the fact that although Princeton has changed so much physically and gotten bigger, it has managed to maintain a small town atmosphere,” he says. “It still has so much to offer people.”

That is and was the case. In many ways so different from the Princeton of today, the town he knew as a boy was filled with opportunities for adventure and enlightenment.

The second child of Sherley and Ethel Morgan, Arthur and his brothers and two sisters lived on Hodge Road. He attended Princeton Borough Elementary School at 185 Nassau Street and later, Princeton Country Day School.

Favorite Teachers

His father, who was Dean of the Princeton University School of Architecture, helped to establish, along with other professors, Princeton Country Day School, aiming to create one of the finest private day schools in the country.

School was enjoyable for Arthur, who especially liked history and English. “At Princeton Country Day, my favorite teachers were Henry Ross and Herbert McAneny,” recalls Mr. Morgan. “Both were active in dramatics, and they started Princeton Community Players.

“Also, this was a time when everyone pinch-hit, and everyone did everything. At Princeton Country Day, everyone played all the sports. I especially liked baseball, and I also did a lot of dramatics.

“We all went to the movies on weekends,” he continues. “It was 25 cents, and there were a couple of main features, along with serials, newsreels, and cartoons. We went to the Garden and also the Arcade, which was the second movie theater, and was located where Triumph Brewery is now.

“My mother used to say, ‘Don’t go there. You could get polio.’ In those days, that was a big worry. Especially if you went swimming or were in crowds.”

In fact, Mr. Morgan did get a mild case, but it did not deter him from horseback riding, which was another big pleasure. He remembers two livery stables, two fox hunts, and a polo club in Princeton in the 1930s and ’40s.

Polo Ponies

“So many people in Princeton at that time had horses,” he recalls. “Riding around Princeton was a very commonplace occurrence. People would hire a horse or keep their own horses at one of the two livery stables. One was across from Bayard Lane and Leigh Avenue, and it also had a riding rink. Another livery stable nearby had a big indoor riding rink. You could also see remains of the Princeton race track.

“It was very easy to ride then,” he adds. “Going west, there was nothing but farms. And the Firestone brothers, who were Princeton students, kept their polo ponies in the barns at the Russell Estate. I got to exercise the ponies, which was exciting for me.”

Arthur had horses of his own to ride as well. “My father kept two or three horses at the livery stable, and I rode them. I loved riding, and I’d ride three or four times a week as a boy.”

Fishing with his father was another special event. “My father and I went fly-fishing all over Maine and Canada,” remembers Mr. Morgan, and he also recalls summer vacations at the Jersey shore and Connecticut shore. Eventually, the Morgans chose Manchester, Vermont as their summer home, where his father designed an “Adirondack” camp, “Birchbrook”, which is still in the family today.

In 1936, the Morgans went to Europe for a lengthy vacation. “We went all over,” says Mr. Morgan. “I remember in Munich, my sister got appendicitis. My mother stayed with her, and my father and I went to Garmisch. The whole area was crawling with Nazis and soldiers in SS uniforms.”

At home, along with most boys in the country in the 1930s, Arthur looked up to Charles Lindbergh. “He was a hero to us all then, the number one national hero. I was thrilled to think about flying in those days.

Lindbergh Kidnapping

“Of course, we were all aware of the kidnapping of the Lindbergh baby. There was tremendous interest here, since the Lindberghs lived in Hopewell.”

Even closer to home, the Morgan family had an adventure of their own following the Lindbergh event. “It was during the depths of the Depression, right after the kidnapping, and my father got a letter demanding money or else one of the children would be kidnapped. Many families were worried about their kids after the Lindbergh kidnapping,” explains Mr. Morgan.

“I remember riding home from school on my bike, and found the place surrounded by police. It was actually an amateurish effort on the part of the would-be robbers. They said to bring the money in an envelope to a field (which is now where Princeton Hospital is located). My father took it, and then the robbers were surrounded by the police. Those days in the Depression were desperate for so many people.”

When he was 14, Arthur went to Deerfield Academy in Massachusetts, where he joined the glee club and enjoyed acting in the school plays. After graduation in 1940, he headed back to Princeton, to attend the University, Class of 1944.

It was not a foregone conclusion that he would attend Princeton, although his father was an alumnus and then Dean of the School of Architecture. But as he recalls, “When I was thinking about college, my father said: “Go anywhere you want; just remember Princeton is free!”

Arthur liked Princeton right away, and was pleased that a number of his friends from Deerfield also chose Old Nassau. During his freshman year, he joined the Army ROTC, and as he remembers, one Sunday in December, he and his roommates were relaxing in their room, when, “Suddenly, one of our friends burst in, and said, ‘Turn on the radio. The Japanese have bombed Pearl Harbor!’ None of us knew where Pearl Harbor was, but we immediately turned on the radio, and then didn’t leave it all week.”

Pearl Harbor

Things changed at the University after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Dormitories were converted into barracks to house the ROTC students and also soldiers, sailors, and Marines coming for training.

“When we joined the ROTC, we actually enlisted in the army,” explains Mr. Morgan, “and we could have been called up at any time. In 1943, I was sent to Fort Bragg in North Carolina, and then I volunteered for the Army Air Corps. It seemed to me flying was better than digging a trench somewhere. I became an instructor in B-17s in navigation and bombing, and was stationed in Los Angeles, Texas, and New Mexico. I taught a lot of Chinese and Brazilians during that time, who would later fly in their own units.”

After his discharge in 1945, Lt. Morgan returned to Princeton, majoring in American history and English. An accelerated program enabled him to graduate in 1946. “The University was very understanding and helpful, and set up programs for returning G.I.s,” recalls Mr. Morgan.

“Two professors were especially important to me at Princeton, “ he adds. “Willard Thorp, an American literature scholar, and Walter Hall (known as ‘Buzzard’) in history.”

After graduation, he joined E. R. Squibb & Sons, which was then owned by his maternal grandfather, Lowell Palmer.

“Squibb was started in Brooklyn by Dr. Edward Squibb, who was the first to codify basic medicines and guarantee their purity,” explains Mr. Morgan. “He also patented a process to make ether, but he was a very poor businessman, and he went bankrupt. My grandfather then bought the company, keeping the name, and they were the first to make penicillin. Eventually, the company moved from Brooklyn to New Brunswick.”

Overseas Branches

In 1947, Mr. Morgan married Mildred Underwood, whom he had met in Oklahoma during the war. The couple settled in Princeton, but then six months later, moved to Latin America, to Cuba, Mexico, and Uruguay, where Mr. Morgan was assigned to establish overseas branches. He later became regional director of all the operations of 2,000 Squibb employees at plants in Argentina, Brazil, and Uruguay.

“Building and staffing pharmaceutical plants for Squibb, I was completely on my own my own boss,” says Mr. Morgan. “It was great, too, being the first guy on the block and starting something new. Working in foreign countries is very different than being here. There’s great variety; meeting different people and learning different languages. I really enjoyed that time in Latin America.”

The Morgan family expanded during the years abroad, with daughter Anne born in Uruguay and Catherine in Buenos Aires. Cynthia didn’t come along until they were back in Princeton in 1956.

Mr. Morgan’s career took a new turn in 1958, when he joined the Empire Trust Company in New York City, specializing in investment banking. “That was very interesting work,” he notes. “The company was investing in oil companies and other areas. I really liked the challenge.

“But after so many years in New York, I was tired of commuting. In 1965, the brokerage firm of Clark, Dodge & Co. started a new office in Princeton, and I became co-manager with Leighton Laughlin, burning my commuter ticket behind me! I operated a small mutual fund, and did investment advisory work.

“Also, off-duty, I moonlighted as vice chairman of Princeton Country Day School.”

In addition, he was on the boards of Westminster Choir College and McCarter Theater, among others. He remembers a special dinner with actress Grace Kelly at a McCarter fund-raising event.

Exciting Times

Also, during the next few years, Mr. Morgan became more involved in community government and planning, serving on Princeton Borough Council from 1972 to ’75, and also as Chairman of the Princeton Borough Planning Board (it would later consolidate with the Township Planning Board).

He remembers exciting times during his years on Borough Council. “That was the time when things were really jumping with the University students demonstrating against the war in Vietnam. I was honorary police commissioner, and one night about 2 a.m., the police chief called and said, ‘You better get down to Borough Hall. The protestors are trying to take the furniture out of the building.’

“I went down, and a group of 50 to 60 demonstrators were in the process of carrying out a table from Borough Hall. I said, ‘Put that damn table down!’ (At 6’ 5”, Mr. Morgan presents a commanding figure). Much to my surprise, they did. They had a bonfire outside, and I went down to talk with them. Then, they got tired and went home. I think they just wanted a hearing.”

Participating in the planning of Princeton’s future was equally interesting to Mr. Morgan, and in his role as Chairman of the Borough Planning Board, he was faced with a myriad of challenges.

“I’ve been very involved in Princeton and the whole planning program. Getting the Master Plan approved was difficult. There were lots of complaints from people who came to the meetings. We were trying to make a suitable plan for our town, and it has held up pretty well.

“The big problem facing us was which areas and streets would be considered primary and secondary roads and areas for development. For example, we considered Hodge Road primary, and that has certainly been true. We also had to decide what to do then. Widen or improve the road? Put in speed bumps, etc.? And, with any area that will be a focus of development, you need to consider how many buildings are allowed per square foot, how high they could be, etc.”

Princeton’s Future

One disappointment stands out regarding Princeton’s plan and development, however, he adds. “Helping to shape Princeton’s future has been very satisfying, but the most frustrating thing has been the failure of the consolidation effort. One time, it was defeated by just 13 votes. Clearly, the majority of residents have been in favor of consolidation.”

By 1975, Mr. Morgan was ready to make another career change. After 10 years with Clark & Dodge, he moved to Princeton Bank & Trust, focusing on investments. A venerable Princeton institution, the bank had been founded in 1834.

Mr. Morgan is not one to speak about his many accomplishments. Those who have known and worked with him, however, are quick to note his professional and personal attributes and his contributions to his community.

His colleague and friend of 35 years, Princeton resident Aristides Georgantas, recalls the days at Princeton Bank & Trust. “We worked together, and he was the senior officer of the entire branch. One of his main responsibilities was managing the trust and investment business of the bank, which was the forerunner of today’s private banks.

“Arthur had such an aristocratic bearing, in the best sense of the word. A wonderfully well-furnished mind. He was a person whose manner was always to encourage everyone to become the best they could. He was always generous, kind, and supportive. In addition, he had a breadth of experiences and interests that ranged from the Philadelphia Phillies to Eva Peron, who had been his dinner partner in Argentina.”

Another friend of long-standing also worked with Mr. Morgan at Princeton Bank & Trust. C. Barnwell Straut comments on Mr. Morgan’s ability to inspire confidence.

“I’ve known him since 1955 when I first came to Princeton, and we worked together at the bank. He ran the trust department, and he did a superb job. He also instilled a lot of confidence. In addition, our families traveled together. We took trips to ranches out west and had great times. Art is such a wonderful guy in every way in his interest in the community and in life in general.”

Busy and Active

After 10 years with Princeton Bank & Trust, Mr. Morgan retired in 1985. That year also brought another change in his life when he married Barbara Baxendale, following the death of his first wife in 1984.

Although “retired” in the official sense, that hardly seems the case. He remains very busy and extremely active. He heads to his downtown office week days to attend to his own investments (he refrained from offering any tips in today’s volatile market).

He reads widely, and most recently has admired Practical Inevitability by Dan Arielly. “It’s about popular economics and social theories and why we do unintentional things and keep doing them. I also liked the novel, The Senator’s Wife by Sue Miller.”

Mr. Morgan’s schedule includes weekly golf and poker games as well as work-outs in the Princeton University gym in the winter, gardening (he is a Master Gardener), and fly-fishing excursions in spring and summer.

“My real remaining hobby is fly-fishing,” he says. “I go north of here to trout streams in Warren and Hunterdon Counties with friends and my son-in-law. Sometimes, my wife comes along, and occasionally, she’ll fish, but mostly she keeps an eye on me!”

He and his wife also like to attend lectures and events at the University and enjoy the range of opportunities available at McCarter. They travel to Vermont and Canada every summer, and take trips out west to Montana and Colorado.

65th Reunion

Mr. Morgan’s three daughters live respectively in Princeton, Maine, and Hawaii, and he looks forward to seeing them and his 10 grandchildren whenever he can.

Active in Princeton University alumni events, he reports that he has a 65th reunion coming up next year, adding that reunions are nothing new to him. “As an alum and son of an alumnus, I have been going to Princeton reunions practically my whole life!”

His classmate and friend Herbert Hobler has worked with Mr. Morgan on University and community projects, including helping to bring illumination to the Princeton Battle Monument. Mr. Hobler recalls their long friendship, noting, “I have known Arthur for 68 years. He’s a good friend and a great community volunteer, having served in local government and local non-profits. We also share another bond. We were both navigators in World War II.”

A man of wide-ranging interests, Mr. Morgan believes strongly in the need for curiosity and continued learning. “One of the most important ways to be successful in one’s professional and personal life is to remain curious about different ideas and different people. No one has all the answers, and some have better answers than you have.”

Mr. Morgan’s comments in his 50th Princeton Reunion Yearbook reflect a mellow wisdom that will no doubt still apply when the 65th Reunion comes around.

“It has been fun and challenging over the years to engage in local politics, serve on the familiar roster of school, college, church, and other civic boards…

“But at this stage, I’m deriving the most satisfaction from having the freedom to savor various simple pleasures of which only tantalizing samples were afforded when I was working. One of the most rewarding of these has been auditing a wide spectrum of courses at the University. It is absolutely the best way to absorb knowledge ? no papers, no exams, and time to do the reading, when and if, you wish. Couple these hours with an occasional overseas trip, some fishing forays to intriguing places, a wonderful wife, and some satisfying grandchildren: it all makes for a happy, and fortunate, time of life.

“As the poet said:

‘We’ll dream of a longer summer
but this is the one we have ….’”

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